Embracing Shabbat in the Wake of a Massacre

Oct. 15 2020

When eleven Jews were murdered on a Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, Abby Schachter—a Pittsburgh resident, albeit a regular at a different congregation—found herself in a taxicab in Manhattan. Thereafter, she resolved to cease traveling by car, plane, or the like on the Sabbath. She writes of this decision:

Walking on Shabbat is just one way to mark a fault line. It is a means of delineating the sacred space of Shabbat as separate from the rest of the mundane week. The observance of Shabbat is filled with such separations and designations.

At first, changing behavior can be uncomfortable, and especially when it comes to religious observance, it can seem downright strange. I don’t think about walking in connection with the Tree of Life massacre anymore, if I ever did. Our Shabbat experience changed because of the shooting, but that does not mean it remains uppermost in my mind on any given Saturday.

Instead, not driving on Saturday has become as integral to my family’s experience as anything else we do to mark the separation from mundane weekday to holy Sabbath. It has also altered our community relationships, because we are invited more often to the homes of fellow congregants for lunch after services. Others have told us their door is open to us if we get caught in the rain walking home or need a glass of water or to rest. On some occasions, we’ve stayed longer at synagogue to enjoy an afternoon program or to visit with our friends. When the weather has been particularly forbidding, we’ve stayed home entirely and spent time together as a family.

One of the more beautiful aspects of Judaism is how it offers us the possibility of meaningful change. Walking on Shabbat is another step on the road to a deeper and richer Jewish life.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Shabbat, Synagogue

Russia’s Alliance with Hizballah Is Growing Stronger

Tehran’s ongoing cooperation with Moscow has recently garnered public attention because of the Kremlin’s use of Iranian arms against Ukraine, but it extends much further, including to the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah. Aurora Ortega and Matthew Levitt explain:

Over the last few years, Russia has quietly extended its reach into Lebanon, seeking to cultivate cultural, economic, and military ties in Beirut as part of a strategy to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, while sidelining the U.S. and elevating Moscow’s role as a peacemaker.

Russia’s alliance with Hizballah was born out of the conflict in Syria, where Russian and Hizballah forces fought side-by-side in an alliance with the Assad regime. For years, this alliance appeared strictly limited to military activity in Syria, but in 2018, Hizballah and Russia began to engage in unprecedented joint sanctions-evasion activities. . . . In November 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury exposed a convoluted trade-based oil-smuggling sanctions-evasion scheme directed by Hizballah and [Iran].

The enhanced level of collaboration between Russia and Hizballah is not limited to sanctions evasion. In March 2021, Hizballah sent a delegation to Moscow, on its second-ever “diplomatic” visit to the country. Unlike its first visit a decade prior, which was enveloped in secrecy with no media exposure, this visit was well publicized. During their three days in Moscow, Hizballah representatives met with various Russian officials, including the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. . . . Just three months after this visit to Moscow, Hizballah received the Russian ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Rudakov in Beirut to discuss further collaboration on joint projects.

Read more at Royal United Services Institute

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Lebanon, Russia